The term One Hit Wonder refers to solo artists or bands who were lucky enough to eke out a hit song before disappearing into obscurity. Over the years in the music business, the phrase One Hit Wonder became a way of expressing something that was a flash in the pan. On today's blog post, we'll take a look at some of the best One Hit Wonders from the 1960's.
Many One Hit Wonders went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and most of them never had a sequel. While these artists seemed to fade out of sight, their hit songs lived on. Many One Hit Wonders ended up being associated with movies or by being re-recorded by other artists.
Today's blog post is dedicated to my older brother Alex, who turned me onto to most of these great One Hit Wonders back in the 1960's!
Stay - Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs
Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs were an American doo-wop/R&B vocal group in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Originally known by the name, The (Royal) Charms. The band went on to change its name (two more times) to The Gladiolas in 1957 and The Excellos in 1958. They finally settled on The Zodiacs.
The band's only hit was Stay, a doo-wop song written by Maurice Williams and first recorded in 1960 by Williams with his group, The Zodiacs. Commercially successful recordings of the same song were later also released by both The Hollies and The Four Seasons.
Hey Baby - Bruce Channel
Hey Baby, a song written by Margaret Cobb and Bruce Channel, was recorded by Channel in 1961 and first released on LeCam Records, a local Fort Worth, Texas label. After the song got some serious airplay, it was released on Smash Records for national distribution. Channel co-produced the song with Major Bill Smith (owner of LeCam) and released it on Mercury Records' Smash label. It reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks..
The song features a prominent riff from well-known harmonica player Delbert McClinton, and drums played by Ray Torres. Other musicians on the record included Bob Jones and Billy Sanders on guitar and Jim Rogers on bass. According to a CNN article from 2002, while touring the UK in 1962 with The Beatles, McClinton met John Lennon and gave him some harmonica tips. Lennon put the lessons to use right away on Love Me Do and later Please Please Me.
Do You Love Me - The Contours
Do You Love Me is a rhythm and blues song recorded by the Contours in 1962. Written and produced by Motown Records owner Berry Gordy Jr., it appeared twice on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching numbers three in 1962 and eleven in 1988. This song is a groove and it references the 1960s dance moves the Mashed Potato and the Twist. The song includes a stirring spoken recitation in the intro: You broke my heart, 'cause I couldn't dance, You didn't even want me around And now I'm back, to let you know...I can really shake 'em down.
I was a 10 year old kid at the time, when my brother Alex slapped the 45 on the record player; we listened to it several times in a row and it was the fake ending of the song that captured my imagination. The song faded out as many song did during those times....but suddenly the song burst forth once again. Zowieeee!
Tell Him - The Exciters
"In 1962, Herb Rooney met the Masterettes; three singing, swinging high school juniors from Queens. Rooney thought the girls had a really hot sound and brought them in to see the renowned production team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The duo concurred with Herb's assessment and told Herb to stick around and sing bottom for the group which was now re-dubbed The Exciters. Before the year was out, the girls were out of school and the foursome's Tell Him was chugging up the charts.
The Exciters performed in Europe and the Caribbean, toured with Wilson Pickett and opened for The Beatles. But after 1966, the media excitement died down to a dribble." (Wayne Jancik, The Billboard Book of One Hit Wonders 1990 published by Billboard Books.)
Sally Go Round The Roses - The Jaynettes
Sally go 'round the roses (Sally go 'round the roses)
Sally go 'round the roses (Sally go 'round the pretty roses)
Roses they can't hurt you (roses they can't hurt you)
Roses they can't hurt you (no, the roses they can't hurt you)
Sally don't you go, don't you go downtown
Sally don't you go, don't you go downtown
Saddest thing in the whole wide world
Is to see your baby with another girl
Don't you go downtown (Sally go 'round)
No, don't you go downtown ('round and 'round)
Yes, because the saddest thing in the whole wide world
Is to see your baby with another girl
Sally Go Round The Roses is a great single that has always had a hypnotic element to it. On occasion it has definitely but me in a trance!
The producer of Sally Go 'Round the Roses, Abner Spector, was an A&R man for the Chicago-based Chess Records. In the summer of 1963, Spector asked J&S owner, Zelma Sanders, to assemble a vocal ensemble to record a girl group style record, to which end Sanders wrote the song Sally Go Round The Roses with Spector's wife Lona Stevens, drawing inspiration from the nursery rhyme "Ring around the Rosie'.
The arrangement for Sally Go 'Round the Roses was provided by Artie Butler. Butler prepped the backing track for the song at Broadway Recording Studios in the Ed Sullivan Theater; in spite of it being widely reported that Buddy Miles is the drummer, Butler claims that, except for the guitar parts (by Al Gorgoni and Carl Lynch), he played all the instruments on the track. The recording of the song was achieved on an old Ampex tape mono machine. The song's overall sound was the result of Butler adding more and more elements of reverb which seemed to add an eerie element to the distinct sound of the record.
To this day I still think there is something mysterious about Sally Go Round The Roses.
Just Like Romeo & Juliet - The Reflections
The Reflections were a blue-eyed soul/doo-wop group from Detroit, Michigan who had one hit single in 1964 called (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet. Produced by Bob Hamilton, the song was produced by Rob Reeco on Golden World Records. The Reflections one-hit wonder reached #6 on the Billboard Hot.
I've always considered 1965 to 1966 to be
the ultimate years for garage rock singles!
Dirty Water - The Standells
Written by Ed Cobb, who also produced the song, Dirty Water is a tongue-in-cheek anthem to the city of Boston, Massachusetts, and its then-famously polluted Boston Harbor and Charles River. According to Standells keyboardist Larry Tamblyn, at least some of the song (notably the references to lovers and thieves) was inspired by a mugging of producer Cobb in Boston.
First issued in late 1965 on the Tower label, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, the song debuted April 30, 1966 on the Cash Box charts and peaked at #8. It reached #11 on the Billboard singles charts on June 11. It was the band's first major hit single.
You Ain't Got Nothing Yet - Blues Magoos
The Blues Magoos were one of the first "psychedelic" bands to break big in the Greenwich Village section of New York city. Lead singer / guitarist Peppy Castro stated in a Goldmine Magazine interview that "our concept really started after we had played the Night Owl in the Village. People began freaking out and turning on." Suddenly the band's single, You Ain't Got Nothing Yet, was racing up the charts.
In a blog post I did called My First Rock Concert, I mentioned the Blues Magoos and their infamous electric suits which they wore onstage!
Liar Liar - The Castaways
"Best remembered for their garage-rock perennial Liar Liar, the Castaways formed in 1962 around the nucleus of guitarist Roy Hensley, bassist Dick Roby and drummer Denny Craswell; originally founded simply to perform at a fraternity party, the group proved such a smashing success that it remained an ongoing concern, expanding to a quintet with the subsequent additions of lead guitarist Bob Folschow and keyboardist Jim Donna. The Castaways' lone hit, "Liar Liar" was written by Donna and released on the Soma label in 1965, reaching the number 12 slot on the U.S. charts on the strength of its inimitable echo-drenched vocals and wheezing keyboards. A series of follow-up efforts flopped, however, and despite an appearance in the 1967 film It's a Bikini World, the Castaways' career ground to a halt, although the band often performed live in the decades to follow." (Jason Ankeny)
Lies - The Knickerbockers
Ah yes...The Knickerbockers!
The first time I heard their hit single, Lies, I thought it was a recording by the Beatles. Within short order, I discovered that they were a garage rock band from Bergenfield, New Jersey.
"The group had a top-20 hit in 1965 with Lies, on which the group emulated the Beatles' harmonies and playing so perfectly that the record was often passed off to the unsuspecting as an actual Beatles cut. The follow-up to Lies was One Track Mind, which was nearly a hit as well. However, the band's label, Challenge Records, could not handle the distribution, and the single only reached number 45. The Knickerbockers soldiered on, appearing in the movie Out of Sight (1966) and as regulars on Dick Clark's ABC-TV program, Where the Action Is (1965–1967)."
Talk Talk - The Music Machine
"Talk Talk by the Music Machine was one minute and 56 seconds of garage psychedelia at its most experimental and outrageous. Lead singer Sean Bonniwell called it 'Chinese Jazz'.
Bonniwell wrote a bunch of other great songs for the Music Machine but most of the world never got to hear them. Gross mismanagement and a series of bad breaks broke the spirit of the band after a year or so.
It wasn't enough for the band to sound like nobody else; Bonniwell made sure they looked like nobody else. To a man, they dyed their hair black, wore only black clothes, played black instruments and wore one black glove at all times...even in public. Onstage the Music Machine segued nonstop from songs to song for an hour or more, at a time when hardly any unknown bands were playing original material and no bands were performing sets without as much as a few seconds of interruption between tunes.
In the last 15 years, Bonniwell has finally received his due as an important innovator by '60's rock aficionados, and most of the Music Machine catalog has been reissued." (Richie Unterberger, Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll, 1998 Miller Freeman Books)
The Outsiders - Time Won't Let Me
"Time Won't Let Me was recorded by the Outsiders, from Cleveland, Ohio, in September 1965, and which became a major hit in the United States in 1966, reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week of April 16 of that year It is ranked as the 42nd biggest American hit of 1966. In Canada, the song also reached #5 in the weekly charts.
The song was composed by the band's guitarist Tom King along with Chet Kelley. Its basic arrangement was augmented by a horn section, applied in an unobtrusive manner so as not to detract from the band's fundamental sound, which on this occasion features a signature riff from a twelve string electric guitar. The song also features an electric organ with a vibrato, heard in the verses. The song also features a complex counterpoint melody in the other vocals in the coda section, where the screaming trumpet is heard before the song's fade.
The Outsiders promoted their hit single with almost a year of nationwide touring, as Time Won't Let Me stayed on the national charts for 15 weeks. The band first tour was with Paul Revere and the Raiders and then with Chad and Jeremy, and later they were part of a six-week tour of one-night stands headed by Gene Pitney, and which included seven or eight other acts, among them Len Barry, B.J. Thomas, and Bobby Goldsboro. Afterwards, the Outsiders joined a four-week tour with several garage rock and psychedelic rock bands, such as the Seeds and the Shadows of Knight. The Outsiders also made a national television appearance on Hullaballoo." (Wikipedia)
Little Girl - Syndicate of Sound
After visiting a record label in San Mateo, California, the Syndicate of Sound, when asked if they had any original material, they created a song called Little Girl on the spot. After scoring a sizable hit with Little Girl (mainly due to the song's raw garage sounds), the Syndicate of Sound tried making more records for several other labels but in the end nothing seemed to click.
96 Tears - Question Mark & The Mysterians
Here's a great garage rock single...96 Tears! The band's performance has a dark vibe to it. The first time I heard this song on the radio it seemed to me that the entire song had a threatening atmosphere .
"We hear the organ before we hear anything else: A Vox Continental, cheap and dinky, bleating out a few notes before the rest of the band kicks in. The entire rest of the band is on pure rhythm-section duty, knocking out a replacement-level garage-rock shuffle that’s just there to work as a bed for the organ, which hammers out one goofily catchy riff after another, always threatening to break into Baby Elephant Walk. Then there's the singer Question Mark...He’s not singing, exactly. He’s talking and howling at the same time. None of what he says makes a lot of sense, and none of it fits into strict verse-chorus-verse structure. Instead, he’s riding the beat, growling out his near-nonsense words like some genetic hybrid of Mick Jagger and James Brown.
All of the Mysterians were Mexican-American teenagers. They were the sons of migrant farm workers who’d found jobs in Michigan’s Saginaw Valley, working at a GM plant there. They were a few hours away from Detroit, with its thriving garage-rock scene, but they were a scene unto themselves. The Mysterians had started out as an instrumental band, playing surf-guitar covers at local parties. When they decided that they needed a singer, they found ? — probably born Rudy Martinez, though he still never answers to any name other than ? — who could not have been a more perfect rock frontman. They recruited him because he was the best dancer in town. He claimed to be an alien. ? named the band after a Japanese sci-fi movie from the ’50s, one that involves both a giant robot and an alien invasion. Once 96 Tears blew up, rumor had it that ? never, ever removed his sunglasses, for any reason.
Even with ? on board, 96 Tears, the band’s first single, had a long and unlikely route to hit status. The members of the band, still in high school when they made 96 Tears, took their 500 copies of the record around to local labels. They told a local radio station that they’d play whatever promotional shows they wanted if the station would play the record sometimes. It spread from city to city — first Saginaw, then Flint, then finally Detroit. Then ? And The Mysterians signed with Cameo-Parkway, a national label that was shut down two years later." (stereogum.com)
Friday On My Mind - The Easybeats
Friday On My Mind is one of my favorite singles from 1967. I still can remember the song's enormous energy as Friday On My Mind came blasting out of my transistor radio.
"After the opening cymbal crash, its just a staccato guitar for the next 20 seconds underscoring Stevie Wright's vocal where he runs through the days of the week, explaining why Monday-Thursday don't excite him. The bass finally comes in as he gets closer to the weekend. Finally, 30 seconds into the song, we hit Friday and the drums come in to play.
This energy carries into the chorus, where we hear about the plans for the weekend. But then it's back to Monday, and we do the "five-day drag once more." This time, however, the tempo is faster and he's even more optimistic, knowing that his time will come. The second chorus is even more energetic and repeats to close out the song. All of this is packed into 2:47, making it one of the more distinctive and energetic hits of the era." (songfacts.com)
Nobody But Me - Human Beinz
I was surprised when I learned that Nobody But Me was written by O'Kelly, Rudolph, and Ronald Isley of The Isley Brothers and first recorded by The Isley Brothers in 1962. The most commercially successful and widely known version was by The Human Beinz, which was their only chart success.
Rock journalist, Dave Marsh, in his Book of Rock Lists named the version by the Human Beinz to be 'The most negative song to hit the Top 40,' noting that the word No is sung over 100 times in a mere 2:16. Marsh also counts the word nobody 46 times more; he adds 'for balance, they throw in the word Yeah once.'" (Wikipedia)
Fire - The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
This single was one of my all-time 1969 favorites. It's interesting to note that the song was produce by none other than Pete Townshend of The Who!
"A proclamation made in a black-and-white video full of fire and smoke, by a singer wearing a flaming crown and decked out in corpse paint – possibly its first use in rock. In 2018, after the music world has seen the likes of Alice Cooper, W.A.S.P., Marilyn Manson and even more bizarre acts, it may not seem that wild or shocking. But imagine being a kid in 1968 and stumbling across the Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s Fire for the first time. It had to be just about the coolest thing you’d ever seen – and for parents, probably one of the scariest.
Although Fire was a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and reached No. 2 on Billboard in the U.S., the Crazy World of Arthur Brown is far from a household name. His work, however, spawned whole genres of rock and metal.
There’s a darker thread running just beneath the surface that really only comes out when Fire is paired with the visual of Arthur Brown’s performance, filled with the maniacal laughs and threats that you’re gonna burn.
Watching that performance, you’ll see a presence that rock fans will quickly associate with Alice Cooper, a few years before Cooper would break through. You’ll also see shades of Iggy Pop in his frantic gyrations and perhaps the first hints of what would become black metal in the overall feel of the piece and its malicious undercurrents.
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s Fire, I would argue, is probably the origin of the shock rock genre that Alice Cooper would later master and hand down to acts like the aforementioned W.A.S.P. and Marilyn Manson. There’s little doubt, too, that Brown’s later work with Kingdom Come laid the foundation for what would become black metal." (Something Else Reviews)
Spirit - I Got A Line On You
I Got a Line on You by Spirit was recorded during the sessions for their second album, The Family That Plays Together, between March 11 and September 18, 1968. The song, composed by guitarist/singer Randy California, was recorded in sessions produced by Lou Adler.
Released as a single ahead of the album by Ode n the US, it began a slow rise up the charts. The song was picked up college radio and finally peaked at number 25 on the US Top 100 in March 1969.
Thunderclap Newman - Something In The Air
Something in the Air is a song by English rock band Thunderclap Newman, written by Speedy Keen who also sang the song. It was a No. 1 single for three weeks in the UK Singles Chart in July 1969. The song has been used for films, television and adverts, and has been covered by several artists. The track was also included on Thunderclap Newman's only album release Hollywood Dream over a year later.
In 1969, Pete Townshend, The Who's guitarist, was the catalyst behind the formation of the band. The concept was to create a band to perform songs written by drummer and singer Speedy Keen, who had written "Armenia City in the Sky", the first track on The Who Sell Out. Townshend recruited jazz pianist Andy "Thunderclap" Newman (a friend from art college), and 15-year-old guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, who later played lead guitar in Paul McCartney and Wings.
Townshend produced the single, arranged the strings, and played bass under the pseudonym Bijou Drains. Originally titled "Revolution" but later renamed to avoid confusion with the Beatles' 1968 song of the same name, "Something in the Air" captured post-flower power rebellion, combining McCulloch's acoustic and electric guitars, Keen's drumming and falsetto vocals, and Newman's piano solo.
Something In The Air reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart just three weeks after release, holding off Elvis Presley in the process.
The scale of the song's success surprised everyone, and there were no plans to promote Thunderclap Newman with live performances. Eventually a line-up—augmented by Jim Pitman-Avory on bass and McCulloch's elder brother Jack on drums—played a handful of gigs. Personal records say the band played live only five times, but Keen referred to a two-month tour, playing "everywhere".
In the UK, the follow-up single "Accidents" came out only in May 1970 and charted at No. 46 for a week. The album Hollywood Dream peaked in Billboard at No. 163. The song and the band are bona fide one hit wonders…Amen!
HERE'S A COMPREHENSIVE LIST Of 1960s ONE HIT WONDERS!
Larry Hall – "Sandy" (1960)
The Edsels – "Rama Lama Ding Dong" (1961)
The Dreamlovers – "When We Get Married" (1961)
The Larks – "The Jerk" (1965)
Jon and Robin & the In-Crowd – "Do It Again A Little Bit Slower" (1967)
The Sandpebbles – "Love Power" (1968)
The Magic Lanterns – "Shame, Shame" (1968)
The Clique – "Sugar on Sunday" (1969)
Bubble Puppy – "Hot Smoke & Sasafrass" (1969)